New York (US), November 26: Millions of Americans are expected to visit brick-and-mortar stores on the Friday after Thanksgiving as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes and people return to prepandemic habits, reported The Wall Street Journal on Friday.
This is a reversal of the past two years, when people were largely stuck at home and did more shopping online. This year, however, many household budgets are pinched by high gas and grocery prices, noted the report.
With many stores closed on Thanksgiving, retailers are preparing for a big surge on Friday. Sales, excluding car dealerships, are forecast to increase 15 percent compared with Black Friday last year, the report said, citing Mastercard SpendingPulse.
"This is the closest to a normal Black Friday that we've had in several years," Stephen Lebovitz, chief executive of mall owner CBL & Associates Properties, was quoted as saying.
Many retailers started dangling big discounts in October to unload excess inventory as supply-chain bottlenecks eased, but the bargains weren't enough to tempt some shoppers as concerns about inflation and the economy continued to mount, according to the report.
"Along with the ongoing impact of inflation, consumer attitudes have also been weighed down by rising borrowing costs, declining asset values and weakening labor-market expectations," said Joanne Hsu, director of the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.
Americans hit malls and big box stores, hoping to snag Black Friday deals in what could be a make-or-break moment for retailers, who already are bracing for a more subdued spending season, reported The Washington Post (WP) on Friday.
"And despite the day's dwindling relevance -- it's morphed into a months-long sale pitch -- merchants of all sizes are digging in," said the report.
Analysts and industry experts have cautioned that Black Friday could be somewhat muted this year. Earlier and steeper sales -- while beneficial for strategic shoppers -- are hurting retailers whose margins are suffering from a glut of inventory and growing labor and other overhead costs, according to the report.
"Meanwhile, consumers are showing signs of fatigue after contending with decades-high inflation for much of the year," it said, noting that the October prices rise of 7.7 percent was still far above normal levels, and lower than analysts had expected.
Even wealthier Americans are feeling pinched, polls show. They're still buying, but choosing less expensive options, it added.
Despite inflation, the average person in Chicago, the third largest city in the United States, is expected to spend 1,700 U.S. dollars on their holiday shopping plans this year, up 22 percent from last year, according to a holiday retail survey.
But they are planning on buying fewer gifts that are being given, according to the survey, released by Deloitte Chicago earlier this month.
The 2022 Deloitte holiday retail survey also found that 37 percent of American households say their financial situation is worse than last year.
With inflation on mind, consumers are looking to retailers to serve up deals and plan to spend 50 percent of their holiday shopping budgets during Black Friday-Cyber Monday.
Data from business management consulting firm Accenture shows that Chicagoans are expected to spend 719 dollars on travel, food, and shopping in the November and December holiday season this year, up 19.3 percent from 580 dollars in 2021.
Nationwide, holiday retail sales in November and December 2022 are expected to grow 6 percent to 8 percent over 2021's record sales of 889.3 billion dollars to a new record of between 942.6 billion and 960.4 billion dollars, according to National Retail Federation (NRF) data.
NRF data also shows that Americans plan to spend roughly 832 dollars each on gifts, food, and decorations in 2022, in line with the 10-year average of 826 dollars but below 2021's average spending amount of 879 dollars.
The disproportionate burden of inflation placed on the U.S. poor is one of the reasons that the Federal Reserve is scrambling to quickly bring price increases back under control, reported The New York Times on Friday.
"The situation underlines a grim reality of the pandemic era," said the report. "A lot of these (poor) households are moving toward the greater fragility that was the norm before the pandemic."
In Boston, Massachusetts, wealthy people check in at the Langham Hotel, and the 135 U.S. dollars Thanksgiving brunch per adult at its in-house restaurant sold out weeks ago.
Meanwhile, many families line up in front of a local charity around 4:30 a.m. for its free pantry and turkeys. This is four hours earlier than its opening time, according to the report.
"The contrast illustrates a divide that is rippling through America's topsy-turvy economy nearly three years into the pandemic," said the report.
Many well-off consumers are still flush with savings and faring well financially, bolstering luxury brands and keeping some high-end retailers and travel companies optimistic about the holiday season, it said.
At the same time, the U.S. poor are running low on cash buffers, struggling to keep up with rising prices and facing climbing borrowing costs, if they use credit cards or loans to make ends meet, it added.